Massachusetts Turnpike

Suspect in Crash That Killed MSP Trooper Was Speeding, Captain Testifies

The driver, David Njuguna, is accused of being high on marijuana at the time of the deadly crash

A Massachusetts State Police captain who responded to a fatal crash that killed a trooper in 2016 testified Thursday that the defendant was driving at a speed of at least 81 mph at the time of the incident.

Capt. John Pinkham of the MSP Collision Analysis and Reconstruction team recalled severe damage to both vehicles following the crash that killed Trooper Thomas Clardy in March 2016

He said, upon arriving, he saw a Nissan with heavy front-end damage facing the wrong side of the road and a Ford cruiser down a small embankment. 

"The glass came from the impact, it was blown out of the vehicle," he said. "This represents where the two vehicles impacted.

“The Nissan had to be going at least 81 miles an hour” at the time it crashed into Clardy’s cruiser, Pinkham said.

Clardy was killed when a car driven by David Njuguna crashed into his stalled vehicle on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Prosecutors said Njuguna was high on marijuana when he was behind the wheel; his attorney claims he had a seizure.

Pinkham explained that airbag control modules in cruisers record about five seconds of pre-crash data, such as speed, seatbelt use and whether or not airbags are deployed in a crash.

"Trooper Clardy, his seatbelt was not buckled, parking brake was not on," Pinkham testified, with his voice appearing to crack.

According to Pinkham, Clardy had pulled a Chevy Tahoe over and was likely about to exit the vehicle to speak with the driver before the Nissan crashed into his cruiser.

Photos of the vehicles involved in the crash, repositioned at the point of impact, were submitted as evidence.

"It's not a sideswipe, it's not a glancing blow, it didn't just strike the corner, the force actually went through the vehicle that was struck," Pinkham said.

New video of a visibility study recreating the vehicles' positions and speeds just prior to the crash showed there's about eight seconds between when the cruiser's emergency lights are visible from the Nissan and when the Nissan allegedly veers over to the breakdown lane where the crash happened.

The video was heavily challenged by the defense.

"If somebody was unconscious prior to the impact - they wouldn't have seen anything," defense attorney Peter Ettenberg said.

Njuguna pleaded not guilty to charges that include manslaughter. He waived his right to a jury trial.

Forensic scientists testified Thursday about four pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes allegedly found in Njuguna’s car.

"This one is partially burnt on one end," forensic scientist Christine Tyson said on Wednesday.

Testimony is scheduled to continue Friday.

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